tv Tavis Smiley PBS April 10, 2012 12:00am-12:30am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. a conversation with janet evans. she established herself at 15 as one of the greatest long distance swimmers in history. we have her performance at the 1988 summer games. at age 40 and the mother of two, she is staging a comeback. she will swim at the u.s. olympic trials earning a spot on the u.s. squad that will be competing in london this summer. we're glad you can join as. a conversation with swimming great janet evans. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where
walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: at the age of 15, janet evans became an international swimming sensation. she won three gold medals at the 1988 summer games. she announced her retirement at the 1996 olympics but not before giving us a memorable image. what i will never forget as long as i live. passing that torch to the champ, moallem golly during the
opening ceremony. you'll recall that. she turned 40 which, to talk about. -- passing that torch to mohammad ali. she has decided to do something unthinkable. getting back in the water and trying to earn a spot on the u.s. team that will compete in london. did i mention she was the mansion -- the mother of two babies? janet evans, glad to have you here. we see the pictures of you played over and over again so you expect to see a 15-year-old with a swim cap what i encourage you are all women. >> married with kids and it is nice. i can be anonymous until i go to the swimming pool and then i am not. i eked my way into a life outside athletics' terry well. >> before we talk about what you're doing now, we had a talk about the difficulty you had
turning 40. i have as well. not everyone does. some people go past, no big deal. some have a hard time. it was rough for me and i am not a person who gets caught up on age. but for you it was about life -- it was about living in the el right direction. i had done a lot of stuff already. i was still wondering whether or not i was in the space needed to be in. did you think of that? >> i have talked a lot of people -- to a lot of people. some people did not have issues. when i turned 30, i retired at swimming from 24. 30 it was the beginning. i loved my 30's. i had my children and i got married, i saw the world. when i got to 40, i do not know if you felt this way. what now? i have done all those great
things i thought i wanted to do. i got married and had my kids and besides staying home and being a wife and raising my children, what do i do to make me feel more fulfilled as well? around 38 was the time i started that i would get my toe back into the swimming pool, literally and figuratively. it was around 38, 39 kind of like you. i got this sudden urge to do a little bit more. and i like being busy. i like doing things. it was kind of appropriate at that time. tavis: do you think this return has to do with restlessness? >> no. i do not think it was restlessness. any mother would tell you, we put everything on the back burner for our babies, our children. i was thinking, this looks
making -- being an olympic swimmer look like a piece of cake. swimming is part of my soul and i will always able to do it and do it well. at the end of the day and wanted to put my head on the pillow and feel like i was doing something for myself as well. not to skirt the issue of being a good mother and wife. but to do something that made me feel good, too. tavis: there are a lot of things that would make you feel good that are all lot less intense. >> i know. tavis: you have done this a few times, you are an olympic champion. the work you put in, i was looking at your schedule. your training schedule of what time you get up, now you tell the story. what time do you get up? >> i drive to the pool. i get up at 4:20 a.m. i come and get my child to
school and i go back to the pool and swim another 5 miles an idea that six days a week. saturdays, my husband is, and i do not get out to the pool. doing something for myself is swimming 10 miles a day. tavis: i have a list of things i could give you that you could have done. >> like volunteer. tavis: the pta. you could volunteer. >> i could work as a librarian. tavis: one of the things you said you would try this is because the times in swimming have not changed. you still hold some records. the times have not -- you continued with their retirement, you can do this. >> yeah, my world record was broken in 2008. it stood from 1987 until 2008. one of the catalysts into doing this and i was having these
emotions and feelings about wanting to do it. i received a phone call from my coach in 2010. they had just had the nationals. the girls, the winning time was 8 minutes, 26 seconds and my world record i broke was eight minutes, 16 seconds. there were still swimming 10 or 15 seconds off. i could maybe go to 8 minutes 16 seconds. i am getting there. if these girls were swimming 8 minutes 5 seconds or tan, it would be futile. every world record has gotten faster with the exception of these distance events. it is and interesting phenomenon. these women or girls have been swimming the same times that we were swimming in the late 1980's and early 1990's. here we are 2012. tavis: what do you make of that?
>> i think swimming is a hard sport. there is a lot of other sports, my daughter wants to join the swim team and she asked how many days a week i would have to swim and i said five. she said no. it is a hard sport, and to add the distance. i swamp for eight minutes, 16 miles -- 16 laps and that took more training. withot sure that right now the destruction that kids have come but if they want to put it into work. tavis: people -- i do not think they trained the same way. technology is different. >> my training is similar because of the distant swarmer. it is all about getting in mileage. for me, having taken so many years off, i am thinner and stronger, we do a lot of more
core work, pilates yoga. i need to get that fitness level. i am incredibly fit right now but i have a little while longer to get to that fitness level i need to get. tavis: what determines success for you this time around? is it making the team? is it studying a certain time, is a winning a medal? what does success look like? >> my first goal was to get to the olympic trials. to me, that is success. the rest of this is the jury and the top. i would love to make the team. i would love to make myself proud. i think it is knowing what i am capable of when i get to the meet and see what happens. people say you are messing with your legacy, what would you do this? how is that messing with my legacy? i could leave this interview and not swim another stroke and no one can take away my medals, my
record. i still have my beautiful family to go home to. my great husband. do know what i mean? there is nothing to lose except for a little bit of sleep. i feel like i have learned so much more. it has been empowering. i have friends and family step up to the plate to help me and give me encouragement. i have felt so much love that i never really thought i would. and i have been presently -- pleasantly surprised by awarding it is on many different levels outside of getting into incredible shape and making it to the olympic trials at 40. tavis: wouldn't mess with your head if you do not? >> i do not think so. tavis: i do not want to find you -- if it did not work out. >> i am much more stable than that and i feel like one of the reasons i wanted to do it was because at the end of my career
-- i beat the east germans and i won three gold medals. in the 1992, i swam two races. i won the silver. that was not ok. a few days later i left with a gold medal to make them four. i hated the sport of swimming. swimming was a means to an end. i was supposed to do it. i was still good. i was competing with the best but i did not like it. i was tired of training, my mental attitude was not as good as it should have been. there were things i would have done differently. i think in the back of my head regardless of the success i had in my earlier career, i always regretted a little bit my mental attitude and how i felt between the 1992 and 1996 olympics. for me to come back and find joy in the sport again, from 1989
until 1996, for seven years i never swam the best time. in swimming that is important. now every time i jump in the pool i do a best time and that is fun for me. coming back to that sport and appreciate it and going at it with a better attitude and having more wisdom has helped me. it has helped me find a nice balance and a nice place for the sport in my life which is a much bigger picture. tavis: two things. the comment, you were not just competing with the best, you were beating some of the best, even folks who were tipped up. which raised the question about how the doping has changed your sport and how long you -- often you get tested. >> all thew time. well, no, i used to sit on the commission of the anti-
doping agency. we should have them available for one hour so we can test. i do not want to be on the computer listings were i am matt. they know where i am. this is where the studio is. the agency could show up right here and demand a urine and blood test. it comes with a territory. it is what we have to do to attempt to keep sport clean. i think when i was swimming in the 1980's, it was different in that we were not as late. there was not as much of a focused concerted effort to stop the cheaters. we had these germans and the soviets and the countries that come out now and have admitted to systematic doping. has become after being involved with it with the agency, almost like mainstream. it encompasses all sports in every country.
when i swam, i felt like it was more confined to the eastern bloc, unfortunately. it is a tough gig. agencies havenping a large task. they're always athletes who do not care about cheating and want to risk their health. to them, being in the olympics or winning a gold medal might be worth it. we stay ahead of the sheets and that is all we can do. tavis: even champions get tempted to cheap. >> i was never approached. i was certainly never tempted. i would not know how to start, where to go. i would never do that. it is not worth it to me. a lot of the east german women i swam against, i later became friends with them, they are lovely women. all they had was swimming. now to know that it was because
of chemicals and steroids that they swim well. a lot of them are having health issues. and swimming is part of my life but it is not worth risking my health for or not been able to be with my children. tavis: i want to go back to a second issue i wanted to raise. you suggested earlier that -- you were unhappy with the sport. you were not happy with swimming for yourself. how does one spend your entire life, dedicated to a particular proposition or sport or activity and get to a point where they are emotionally, psychologically they are turned off. >> it always amazed me. i met my husband after he
finished swimming -- i finished swimming. it is kind of what you do. my mother cannot swim and my dad floats. it is something you do after you fall off the boat, he said. it was this internal thing. my parents said if you want to quit, please do because we do not want to get up and take you to the work out. their work ok with it. my mother still cannot swim. i have two older brothers and that second one is very talented. probably more talented than me. a very good swimmer. it was an internal drive for me. it has nothing to do with my parents but i always wanted to win and i was never because my parents were not athletes, i never had this -- learned it was not ok not to win. they helped me with my drive. i never had a mentor to say you do not have to win all the time.
to me it was this inner drive to win and when i stopped breaking records, when people started criticizing me, people always criticize us, whatever we're trying to accomplish, it became very internal. i do not like this i have to do it because i am janet and i am supposed to win gold medals. it became like a vicious circle. i did not like it but i did not know what else to do without swimming. it is such a big part of my life. i did not know of that make sense. it is like when people tell you you are going to do something and you are good at it, you kind of to a because that is all you know. it is all i knew. tavis: how did you get motivated, who motivated you? your coaches, obviously. your coach. when your parents could take or leave you swimming because i did not want to get up at 4:00 a.m., obviously they want their daughter to be successful in whatever they -- she does. i ask that because there are
parents who push these kids, it is their dream for these kids and oftentimes their overbearing. kids get turned off. at one point, -- your parents were not overbearing. who was motivating you? >> me. my mother made my dad take me to the workout. if he did not take me, i would have walked. it was a real internal drive. as a mother, my daughter loves gymnastics. she is tall so she is not going to be a generous but she loves it. i love that she loves it. i go to these classes and there is parents grabbing at their 5- year-old. -- griping at their 5-year-old. i am that mom, i want her to enjoy and i would never push for.
it was very rare for me and the athletes i encountered in my career to meet an athlete whose parents pushed them to be successful. it taught about an -- you talk about andre agassi. tavis: one point he hated tennis. >> tennis and swimming, it is an individual sport. you have yourself to motivate. if a team is relying on you, i have always dreamed of being in team sports. you have these people relying on you. when you are getting out there every day into the pool, i think the motivation is an issue. you get a little tired of it. it is still -- i have this in your drive and i still have this inner drive which is why i am going back to the pool. tavis: i wonder if you had thoughts on the michael phelps
situation. he is a world champion and everyone loves this guy. he is human and we all make mistakes. he navigated your f -- you navigated or fame and fortune so well. there are a lot of americans pulling for you this time around. we want to see you succeed. what are your thoughts when michael phelps got caught? when you become famous overnight, he happens to be a swimmer. >> i was disappointed like everyone else. i think he went to his first olympics when he was 16 and he was a boy. i know that boys will be boys. i think he needs to grow up. he has grown up more so than i in the public eye. i cannot defend what he was doing. it is what 20-year-old boys may
be due. i do not condone it. it is what is and it was a very dumb move for lack of a better word. you cannot take away what he accomplished in beijing. tavis: there is a part of growing up, guys do certain things, girls do certain things. how do you navigate it? >> i went to college. it did not keep me on the straight and narrow by any means. when i was finished, i could either take money or endorsements or could get a college scholarship. my parents always let me choose. my parents kind of navigated me toward the side of, get an education because my parents are not athletes. who knows how much longer you will swim. we prefer you to get a college education. for me, going to college give me focused. and when to stanford and i
transferred to usc but it kept me with a goal and a focus in mind whereas a lot of the younger swimmers today do not go to college. they take the endorsement money and here they are at 17 through 20 driving fancy cars and having significant amounts of money because of their success, and i think that is harder to navigate. when you are famous and successful and you have money and your young. that is what young kids do? tavis: do you regret that? everyone takes the money. >> it was -- people still say that to me. what were you thinking? in the late 1980's, there was not as much money in the sport or the olympic movement. once again i was not looking for any of that. i was overwhelmed with the fame and the cameras waiting at the airport. i was this kid from orange county who wanted to go back to my high school boyfriend and go to a homecoming. for me, it made it more fun.
it was never my job. it was something i love to do and i did not want to make money. i wanted to enjoy it and be a teammate and get a scholarship and leave a legacy for my kids, their mom was a college athlete. it was important. tavis: i was just teasing you. i love the decision. it was so rare. we begin with these timed trials. how close are you to the goal you have to get to do what you need to do? >> we -- i get better every week. i am not super close. my only issue is i have to have enough time. ian forbes said the same thing, i am not sure give enough time.
if i started this when you're out, -- we will see. i hope my body can keep in sh ape. tavis: he had a lot of great moments. >> i would give up every gold medal to live that again. tavis: why? moment.a great >> unreel. tavis: could you feel what everyone was feeling at that moment? the energy. >> when he came up, it felt -- like an earthquake. the best thing was when i was in tehe stands. i said, i was so excited for
those guys. i said to this person, this is the most amazing torch lighting ever. she said this is nothing compared to what it felt like when ali with the torch. i cannot be on the outside looking in. i cried for five minutes after it was over. tavis: that is a great story. thanks for sharing. good to have your. i hope we are talking months from now. good to see you. that is our show for tonight. see you next time on pbs. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org.
tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with mikhail barishnikov. that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. thank you.
is one of ireland's most evocative sites. this was the seat of ancient irish kings for seven centuries. st. patrick baptized king aengus here in about 450 a.d. in around 1100, an irish king gave cashel to the church, and it grew to become the ecclesiastical capital of all ireland. 800 years ago, this monastic community was just a chapel and a round tower standing high on this bluff. it looked out then, as it does today, over the plain of tipperary, called the golden vale because its rich soil makes it ireland's best farmland. on this historic rock, you stroll among these ruins in the footsteps of st. patrick, and wandering through my favorite celtic cross graveyard, i feel the soul of ireland.